Judicial Pendency

Ending Tareekh pe Tareekh Syndrome

Judicial Pendency

Unresolved constitutional cases


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Unresolved constitutional cases and their implications


As 2021 draws to a close, a look at the Supreme Court of India’s docket reveals a host of highly significant constitutional cases that were long-pending when the year began, and are now simply a year older without any sign of resolution around the corner.

How delay in judicial process matters differently for the State and individual?

  • While the violation of rights — whether through executive or legislative action — is relatively costless for the state, it is the individual, or individuals, who pay the price.
  • Making the Constitution effective: Consequently, a Constitution is entirely ineffective if a rights-violating status quo is allowed to exist and perpetuate for months, or even years, before it is finally resolved.
  • This point, of course, is not limited to the violation of rights, but extends to all significant constitutional questions that arise in the course of controversial state action.
  • Missing the accountability: Issues around the federal structure, elections, and many others, all involve questions of power and accountability, and the longer that courts take to resolve such cases, the more we move from a realm of accountability to a realm of impunity.
  • The longer such cases are left hanging without a decision, the greater the damage that is inflicted upon our constitutional democracy’s commitment to the rule of law.

Significant cases that are unresolved

[a] Challenge to the dilution of Article 370

  • There is the constitutional challenge to the Presidential Orders of August 5, 2019, that effectively diluted Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, and bifurcated the State of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, controlled by the Centre.
  • It raises the question of whether the Centre can take advantage of an Article 356 situation in a State — a time when no elected government and Assembly is in existence — to make permanent and irreversible alterations in the very structure of the State itself.
  •  Implications for federal structure: The answer will have important ramifications not just for Jammu and Kashmir but for the entire federal structure:
  • India has a long history of the abuse of Article 356 to “get rid of” inconvenient State governments, and a further expansion of the power already enjoyed by the Centre will skew an already tilted federal scheme even further.
  • Power of the Parliament to alter convert State into UT: The case also raises the question of whether, under the Constitution, the Union Legislature has the authority not simply to alter State boundaries (a power granted to it by Article 3 of the Constitution), but degrade a State into a Union Territory.
  • If it turned out that the Union Legislature does have this power, it would essentially mean that India’s federal structure is entirely at the mercy of Parliament.

[2] Constitutional challenge to the electoral bond scheme

  • Opaque and structurally biased: The electoral bonds scheme authorises limitless, anonymous corporate donations to political parties, making election funding both entirely opaque to the people, as well as being structurally biased towards the party that is in power at the Centre.
  • Impact on integrity and right of the citizens to informed vote: In numerous central and State election cycles in the last four years, thousands of crores of rupees have been spent in anonymous political donations, thus impacting not only the integrity of the election process but also the constitutional right of citizens to an informed vote.
  • However, other than two interim orders, the Supreme Court has refused to accord a full hearing to the constitutional challenge.

[3] Other significant cases

  • Statutory basis of the CBI: As far back as 2013, the Gauhati High Court held that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was not established under any statutory authority.
  • This verdict was immediately stayed when it was appealed to the Supreme Court, but in the intervening years, it has never been heard.
  • Challenge to the CAA: More recently, constitutional challenges to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), filed in the immediate aftermath of the legislation’s enactment, remain unheard.
  • Challenge to the UAPA: The challenges to the much-criticised Section 43(D)(5) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which makes the grant of bail effectively impossible, and is responsible for the years-long incarceration of several people.
  • The challenge to Section 43(D)(5) is perhaps the case that most directly affects civil rights, as the section continues to be applied on a regular basis.

Implications of the delay

  • Favouring one party: The Supreme Court’s inaction is not neutral, but rather, favours the beneficiaries of the status quo.
  • In other words, by not deciding, the Court is in effect deciding — in favour of one party — but without a reasoned judgment that justifies its stance.
  • Impact on accountability: Judicial evasion of this kind is also damaging for the accountability of the judiciary itself.
  • The Court’s inaction plays as significant a role on the ground as does its action, there is no judgment — and no reasoning — that the public can engage with.
  • Impact on the rule of law: For obvious reasons, this too has a serious impact on the rule of law.

Consider the question “What are the implications of the delay in deciding the constitutionally significant cases? Suggest the way forward.”


The current CJI has been on record stressing the importance of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. One way of demonstrating that in action might be to hear — and decide — the important constitutional cases pending before the Court.

UPSC 2022 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

Judicial Pendency

[pib] Fast Track Special Courts


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Fast Track Special Courts

Mains level : Resolving judicial pendency

The Union Cabinet has approved the continuation of 1023 Fast Track Special Court (FTSCs) including 389 exclusive POCSO Courts for two more years.

Fast Track Special Courts

  • Fast Track Special Courts are dedicated courts expected to ensure swift dispensation of justice.
  • They have a better clearance rate as compared to the regular courts and hold speedy trials.
  • Besides providing quick justice to the hapless victims, it strengthens the deterrence framework for sexual offenders.
  • Central Share is to be funded from Nirbhaya Fund. The Scheme was launched on 02.10.2019.
  • To bring more stringent provisions and expeditious trial and disposal of such cases, the Central Government enacted “The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018”.
  • It made provision of stringent punishment including the death penalty for perpetrators of rape.
  • This led to the establishment of the Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs).

 Note: Article 247 gives power to Parliament to establish certain additional courts for the better administration of laws made by it or of any existing laws with respect to a matter enumerated in the Union List.

Benefits offered by fast track courts

  • Further the commitment of the Nation to champion the cause of safety and security of women and girl child.
  • Reduce the number of pending cases of Rape & POCSO Act.
  • Provide speedy access to justice to the victims of sexual crimes and act as a deterrent for sexual offenders.
  • Fastracking of these cases will declog the judicial system of the burden of case pendency.

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

Judicial Pendency

[pib] Scheme for Development of Infrastructure Facilities for Judiciary


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gram Nyayalayas Scheme

Mains level : Not Much

The Union Cabinet has approved the continuation of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) for the Development of Infrastructure Facilities for Judiciary. It also approved the decision to support the Gram Nyayalayas by proving recurring and non-recurring grants for a period of 5 years with a total outlay of Rs 50 crores.

About the Scheme

  • A Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) for Development of Infrastructure Facilities for Judiciary has been in operation since 1993-94.
  • Adequacy of judicial infrastructure is critical for the reduction of pendency and backlog of cases in Courts.
  • The primary responsibility of infrastructure development for the subordinate judiciary rests with the State Governments.
  • The present proposal provides for additional activities like the construction of lawyer halls, toilets complexes and digital computer rooms.
  • This will add to the convenience of lawyers and litigants besides reducing the digital divide.

Why such a move?

  • Adequacy of judicial infrastructure is critical for the reduction of pendency and backlog of cases in Courts.
  • Several courts are still functioning in rented premises with insufficient space and some in dilapidated conditions without basic amenities.
  • Well-equipped judicial infrastructure facilitates the administration of justice in a manner that allows easy access and timely delivery of justice to all.

What is Gram Nyayalayas Scheme?

  • Gram Nyayalayas were established for speedy and easy access to the justice system in the rural areas across the country.
  • The Gram Nyayalayas Act came into force on October 2, 2009.
  • In terms of Section 3(1) of the Act, it is for the State Governments to establish Gram Nyayalayas in consultation with the respective High Courts.
  • The Act authorizes Gram Nyayalaya to hold a mobile court outside its headquarters.
  • Some major reasons behind the non-enforcement include financial constraints, the reluctance of lawyers, police and other government officials.

Features of the Gram Nyayalayas

  • Gram Nyayalaya is established generally at headquarter of every Panchayat at the intermediate level or a group of contiguous panchayat in a district where there is no panchayat at an intermediate level.
  • The Gram Nyayalayas are presided over by a Nyayadhikari, who will have the same power, enjoy the same salary and benefits of a Judicial Magistrate of First Class.
  • Such Nyayadhikari is to be appointed by the State Government in consultation with the respective High Court.


  • A Gram Nyayalaya have jurisdiction over an area specified by a notification by the State Government in consultation with the respective High Court.
  • The Court can function as a mobile court at any place within the jurisdiction of such Gram Nyayalaya, after giving wide publicity to that regard.
  • The Gram Nyayalayas have both civil and criminal jurisdiction over the offences and nature of suits specified in the First, Second and Third schedule of the Act.
  • The pecuniary jurisdiction of the Nyayalayas are fixed by the respective High Courts.
  • Appeals in criminal matter can be made to the Sessions Court in the respective jurisdiction and in civil matters to the District Court within a period of one month from the date of judgment.


  • Gram Nyayalayas can follow special procedures in civil matters, in a manner it deem just and reasonable in the interest of justice.
  • Civil suits are proceeded on a day-to-day basis, with limited adjournments and are to be disposed of within a period of six months from the date of institution of the suit.
  • In execution of a decree, the Court can allow special procedures following rules of natural justice.
  • Gram Nyayalayas allow for conciliation of the dispute and settlement of the same in the first instance.
  • They have been given the power to accept certain evidence which would otherwise not be acceptable under the Indian Evidence Act.

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

Judicial Pendency

What is Tele-Law Scheme?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tele Law Scheme

Mains level : Pendency issue in Indian Judiciary

The Law Ministry recently commemorated an event to mark the coverage of more than nine lakh beneficiaries of the government’s tele-law scheme, using common service centres (CSCs) to provide justice across the country.

Tele-Law Scheme

  • The concept of Tele-Law is to facilitate the delivery of legal advice through a panel of lawyers stationed at the State Legal Services Authorities (SALSA) and CSC.
  • Tele-Law means the use of communications and information technology for the delivery of legal information and advice.
  • The project initiates to connect citizens with lawyers through video conferencing facilities by the Para-Legal Volunteers stationed at identified 50,000 CSCs.
  • This e-interaction between lawyers and people would be through the video-conferencing infrastructure available at the CSCs.

Features of the program

  • Under this programme, smart technology of video conferencing, telephone/instant calling facilities available at the vast network of CSC.
  • It enables anyone to seek legal advice without wasting precious time and money.
  • The service is free for those who are eligible for free legal Aid as mentioned under Section 12 of the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987.
  • For all others, a nominal fee is charged.

Back2Basics: Free legal aid in India

  • Article 21 of the Constitution of India states, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”.
  • Hence ensuring legal aid to everyone is necessary for ensuring substantive equality.
  • Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society, to promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity.
  • Articles 14 and 22(1) also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before the law and a legal system that promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity to all.

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

Judicial Pendency

Law and disorder


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Judicial conduct and associated issues

Several inadequacies in the justice delivery system lie hidden as disproportionate attention is given to the Supreme Court.

Public expects the judiciary to be ideal

  • The citizens of the country expect the Supreme Court and its constituents to be ideal, and the challenge of the Supreme Court is to come to terms with that reality.
  • However, it is not the Supreme Court alone that matters in the justice delivery system. There are other inadequacies of the system that don’t get as much public attention.

Practice Question: Explain the various inadequacies in the justice delivery system in India which lie hidden. What steps need to be taken to address them?

Spending on judiciary

  • The issue of spending on judiciary, most often, is equated with increasing the salaries of judges and providing better court infrastructure. Such perceptions are unfortunate.
  • India has one of the most comprehensive legal aid programmes in the world, the Legal Services Authority Act of 1987.
  • Under this law, all women, irrespective of their financial status, are entitled to free legal aid. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and children too are entitled to free legal aid.
  • In reality, this law is a dead letter. There has been little effort on the part of successive governments to provide a task force of carefully selected, well-trained and reasonably paid advocates to provide these services.
  • In comparison, the system of legal aid in the U.K. identifies and funds several independent solicitor offices to provide such services. India is yet to put in place anything similar to this.

Poor judge-population ratio

  • The judge-population ratio provides one of the most important yardsticks to measure the health of the legal system. The U.S. has about 100 judges per million population. Canada has about 75 and the U.K. has about 50.
  • India, on the other hand, has only 19 judges per million population. Of these, at any given point, at least one-fourth is always vacant.
  • Lower courts where the common man first comes into contact (or at least should) with the justice delivery system is also unnoticed and hardly any attention is focused on their gaping inadequacy.
  • These inadequacies are far more important to the common man than the issues relating to the apex court that are frequently highlighted in the public space.
  • In All India Judges Association v. Union of India (2001), the Supreme Court had directed the Government of India to increase the judge-population ratio to at least 50 per million population within five years from the date of the judgment. This has not been implemented.

Access to justice

  • Though ‘access to justice’ has not been specifically spelt out as a fundamental right in the Constitution, it has always been treated as such by Indian courts.
  • In Anita Kushwaha v. Pushpa Sadan (2016), the Supreme Court held unambiguously that if “life” implies not only live in the physical sense but a bundle of rights that make life worth living, there is no justice or other basis for holding that denial of “access to justice” will not affect the quality of human life.
  • It was for the first time that the Supreme Court had attempted a near-exhaustive definition of what “access to justice” actually means.
  • Further, the court pointed out four important components of access to justice.
  1. The need for adjudicatory mechanisms.
  2. The mechanism must be conveniently accessible in terms of distance.
  3. The process of adjudication must be speedy.
  4. The process of adjudication must be affordable to the disputants.
  • It is of course a paradox that this judgment, which emphasizes the concept of speedy justice, was passed in 2016 in a batch of transfer petitions that were filed between 2008 and 2014.

Way forward

  • The state in all its glorious manifestations — the executive, judiciary and the legislature — there is a need to draw out a national policy and road map for clearing backlogs and making these concepts real.
  • A disproportionate amount of attention that is given to the functioning of the Supreme Court, it is equally important to have a clear focus on these and similar issues.

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

Judicial Pendency

What are Lok Adalats?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lok Adalat

Mains level : Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in India

A daily wager in Odisha has moved the Lok Adalat against PM after he allegedly failed to get an Aadhaar card registered in his name despite 21 attempts.

Try this PYQ:

Q. With reference to National Legal Services Authority, consider the following statements:

  1. Its objective is to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society on the basis of equal opportunity.
  2. It issues guidelines for the State Legal Services Authorities to implement the legal programmes and schemes throughout the country.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

What are Lok Adalats?

  • Lok Adalat (People’s Court) is an alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
  • The forum can settle cases pending on panchayat or at a pre-litigation stage in a court of law.
  • The decisions have statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
  • Under this Act, the award (decision) made by the Lok Adalats is deemed to be a case of a civil court, final and binding for all parties, and not subject to appeal.
  • It has broad powers to devise its procedures, compared to national courts.
  • If the parties do not recognise the Lok Adalat (though there is no provision for an appeal against such a prize), they may initiate litigation by approaching the court of appropriate jurisdiction.

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

Judicial Pendency

What is Plea Bargaining and how does it work?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Plea Bargaining

Mains level : Various judicial remedies

Many members of a religious faction belonging to different countries have obtained release from court cases in recent days by means of plea bargaining. They were accused of violating visa conditions by attending a religious congregation in Delhi.

Try this question for mains:

Q.What is Plea Bargaining and how does it work? Discuss the rationale behind and benefits in reducing the burden on Judiciary.

What is Plea Bargaining?

  • Plea bargaining refers to a person charged with a criminal offence negotiating with the prosecution for a lesser punishment than what is provided in law by pleading guilty to a less serious offence.
  • It is common in the US and has been a successful method of avoiding protracted and complicated trials.
  • As a result, conviction rates are significantly high there. It primarily involves pre-trial negotiations between the accused and the prosecutor.
  • It may involve bargaining on the charge or in the quantum of sentence.

When was it introduced in India?

  • In India, the concept was not part of law until 2006. It was introduced in 2006 as part of a set of amendments to the CrPC as Chapter XXI-A, containing Sections 265A to 265L.
  • There has always been a provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure for an accused to plead ‘guilty’ instead of claiming the right to a full trial, but it is not the same as plea bargaining.
  • The Law Commission of India, in its 142nd Report, mooted the idea of “concessional treatment” of those who plead guilty on their own volition but was careful to underscore that it would not involve any plea bargaining or “haggling” with the prosecution.

How does it work?

  • Unlike in the U.S. and other countries, where the prosecutor plays a key role the Indian code makes plea bargaining a process that can be initiated only by the accused.
  • Further, the accused will have to apply to the court for invoking the benefit of bargaining.

In what circumstances is it allowed?

  • Cases for which the practice is allowed are limited.
  • Only someone who has been charge-sheeted for an offence that does not attract the death sentence, life sentence or a prison term above seven years can make use of the scheme under Chapter XXI-A.
  • It is also applicable to private complaints of which a criminal court has taken cognizance.
  • Other categories of cases that cannot be disposed of through plea bargaining are those that involve offences affecting the “socio-economic conditions” of the country or committed against a woman or a child below 14.

How to avail this?

  • The applicant should approach the court with a petition and affidavit stating that it is a voluntary preference and that he has understood the nature and extent of punishment provided in law for the offence.
  • The court would then issue a notice to the prosecutor and the complainant or victim, if any, for a hearing.
  • The voluntary nature of the application must be ascertained by the judge in an in-camera hearing at which the other side should not be present.
  • Thereafter, the court may permit the prosecutor, the investigating officer and the victim to hold a meeting for a “satisfactory disposition of the case”.
  • The outcome may involve payment of compensation and other expenses to the victim by the accused.

After approval

  • Once mutual satisfaction is reached, the court shall formalize the arrangement by way of a report signed by all the parties and the presiding officer.
  • The accused may be sentenced to a prison term that is half the minimum period fixed for the offence.
  • If there is no minimum term prescribed, the sentence should run up to one-fourth of the maximum sentence stipulated in the law.

What is the rationale for the scheme? What are its benefits?

  • The Justice Malimath Committee on reforms of the criminal justice system endorsed the various recommendations of the Law Commission with regard to plea bargaining.
  • Some of the advantages it culled out from earlier reports are that the practice would ensure a speedy trial, end uncertainty over the outcome of criminal cases, save litigation costs and relieve the parties of anxiety.
  • It would also have a dramatic impact on conviction rates.
  • Prolonged incarceration of undertrials without any progress and overcrowding of prisons were also other factors that may be cited in support of reducing pendency of cases and decongesting prisons.
  • Moreover, it may help offenders make a fresh start in life.

Do courts have reservations?

  • Case law after the introduction of plea bargaining has not developed much as the provision is possibly not used adequately.
  • However, earlier judgments of various courts in cases in which the accused enter a ‘guilty’ plea with a view to getting lesser sentences indicate that the judiciary may have reservations.
  • Some verdicts disapprove of bargaining with offenders, and point out those lenient sentences could be considered as part of the circumstances of the case after a regular trial.
  • Courts are also very particular about the voluntary nature of the exercise, as poverty, ignorance and prosecution pressure should not lead to someone pleading guilty of offences that may not have been committed.

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

Judicial Pendency

The idea of Regional Supreme Court Benches


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Debate over additional SC benches

Demand for regional benches

  • Recently, Vice-President in his speech has suggested that the Supreme Court institute four regional Benches to tackle the enormous backlog of cases, and to ensure their speedy disposal.
  • He also endorsed the recommendation of the Law Commission of India that the top court should be split into two divisions.
  • These ideas are not new; apart from the LC, they were mooted also in the Congress manifesto for this year’s Lok Sabha elections.
  • But they have not developed into a serious debate, and the Supreme Court itself has been opposed to these ideas.

Core of the problem: Pendency of cases

  • In the early decades, the Supreme Court of India, too, functioned largely as a constitutional court, with some 70-80 judgments being delivered every year by Constitution Benches of five or more judges.
  • They ruled, as per Article 145(3) of the Constitution, on matters “involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of [the] Constitution”.
  • This number has now come down to 10-12.

Why so much pendency in the apex court?

  • Due to their heavy workload, judges mostly sit in two- or three-judge Benches to dispose of all kinds of cases; these include several non-Constitutional and relatively petty matters.
  • On some occasions, even PILs on demands such as Sardar jokes should be banned, or that Muslims should be sent out of the country, come before the Supreme Court.
  • This heavy workload is due to the fact that India’s Supreme Court is perhaps the world’s most powerful court, with a very wide jurisdiction.
  • It hears matters between the Centre and states, and between two or more states; rules on civil and criminal appeals; and advises the President on questions of law and fact.
  • On the question of violation of FRs, anyone can approach the Supreme Court directly.
  • The result: more than 65,000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court, and disposal of appeals takes many years.

What the Law Commission said

  • Back in March 1984, the 10th Law Commission of India (95th Report) under Justice K K Mathew recommended that “the SC should consist of two Divisions, namely (a) Constitutional Division, and (b) Legal Division”.
  • Only matters of Constitutional law may be assigned to the proposed Constitutional Division.
  • The 11th LC under the chairmanship of Justice D A Desai (125th Report, 1988) “reiterate(d) that the recommendation for splitting the SC into two halves deserves to be implemented”.

Demand for 4 benches

  • The 18th LC under Justice A R Lakshmanan (229th Report, 2009) recommended that “a Constitution Bench be set up at Delhi to deal with constitutional and other allied issues”.
  • It recommended for four Cassation Benches be set up all four zones to deal with all appellate work arising out of the orders/judgments of the High Courts of the particular region.
  • Indeed, many countries around the world have Courts of Cassation that decide cases involving non-Constitutional disputes and appeals from the lower level of courts.
  • Standing Committees of Parliament recommended in 2004, 2005, and 2006 that Benches of the court be set up elsewhere.
  • In 2008, the Committee suggested that at least one Bench be set up on a trial basis in Chennai.
  • These are courts of last resort that have the power to reverse decisions of lower courts. (Cassation: annulment, cancellation, reversal).

Who can constitute additional benches?

  • Supreme Court Rules give the Chief Justice of India the power to constitute Benches — he can, for instance, have a Constitution Bench of seven judges in New Delhi, and set up smaller Benches in, say, four or six places across the country.

Argument for

  • It has been pointed out that Article 39A says that the state shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity.
  • It shall ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
  • It is obvious that travelling to New Delhi or engaging expensive Supreme Court counsel to pursue a case is beyond the means of most litigants.

Arguments against

  • The Supreme Court has not agreed with the proposal, which in its opinion will dilute the prestige of the court.
  • Article 130 says that the Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the CJI may, with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint.

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

Judicial Pendency

[op-ed snap] The hard realities of India’s fast-track courts


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Relevance and limitations of fast track courts

The government has proposed to set up 1,023 fast-track courts to clear the cases under the POCSO Act. Supreme Court directed that districts with more than 100 cases pending under the POCSO Act need to set up special courts that can deal specifically with these cases.

Facts about fast track courts

  1. Fast-track courts (FTCs) have been around for a long time, with the first ones being established in the year 2000
  2. According to the Ministry of Law and Justice, at the end of March, there were 581 FTCs operational in the country, with approximately 5.9 lakh pending cases
  3. 56% of the States and Union Territories, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, had no FTCs
  4. 870 crore was released by the Centre between 2000-2001 and 2010-2011 towards these FTCs
  5. Increasing the number of courts as a recourse to deal with the mounting backlog has been a common practice.

Challenges of fast track courts

  1. Though large sums of money and attention are being devoted to creating additional posts, little is being done to identify and address the prevalent systemic issues.
  2. Without fully optimising the current mechanisms and resolving the problems, sanctioning more judges may not provide the intended results.
  3. In a survey of FTCs conducted by National Law University Delhi, it was observed that there is a huge variation in the kinds of cases handled by these courts across States. 
  4. Certain States primarily allocating rape and sexual offense cases to them and other States allocating various other matters.
  5. Several FTCs lacked technological resources to conduct audio and video recordings of the victims and many of them did not have regular staff.
  6. A per data collated from Supreme Court’s ‘Court News’ between 2010 and 2017, in Karnataka, the number of working judges increased between 2012 and 2017 but pendency did not reduce. 

Way ahead

  1. Inadequate staff and IT infrastructure, delay in getting reports from the understaffed forensic science laboratories, frivolous adjournments and over-listing of cases in the cause list are some of the variables.
  2. Identifying systemic issues and addressing the concerns is important for timely disposal of cases
  3. Designating special judges from the current pool of judges would increase substantially the workload of the remaining judges.
  4. For the FTCs to become successful, States will need to take stock of the issues at the ground level. 
  5. States should engage with the principal and senior district judges to get a sense of issues the courts are facing in various districts. 
  6. Attention must be paid to both the metropolitan and far-flung non-metropolitan areas.
  7. Critical issues such as inadequate court staff, improper physical and IT infrastructure and understaffed forensic labs, which affect the day-to-day functioning of the FTCs, must be comprehensively addressed.

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

Judicial Pendency

[op-ed snap] Bigger and better: On number of Supreme Court judges


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Judicial vacancies and pendency


Union Cabinet took a decision to raise the strength of the Supreme Court from 31 to 34, including the Chief Justice of India. Any move to increase the strength of the judiciary ought to be welcomed.

Reasons for increasing strength

  1. Availability of judges is not increasing in proportion to the institution of cases
  2. This will help in dealing with the large pendency of cases: 59,331 cases on July 11
  3. The law that fixes the number of judges in the highest court was last amended in 2009 to raise the figure from 26 to 31
  4. Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had written to the PM recently, highlighting the problem of paucity of judges, due to which he was unable to constitute enough Constitution Benches to decide important questions of law

Problems with Supreme Court

  1. Should the Supreme Court go into the correctness of every decision of every high court
  2. Valuable time is being taken up by mundane matters that do not impinge on larger questions that involve interpretation of laws and constitutional provisions
    1. Routine bail matters land up in the Supreme Court within days of persons being arrested
    2. Every major crime or disaster seems to invite public interest litigation which mentions the matter before the Chief Justice for urgent hearing. The court is being invited to even oversee flood relief work.

Way ahead

  1. A mere increase in the court’s strength may not be enough to liquidate the burgeoning docket
  2. Reasonable restraint on the duration of oral arguments and disciplined adherence to a schedule of hearings may be needed
  3. Preserve the apex court’s primary role as the ultimate arbiter of constitutional questions and statutory interpretation. All other questions involving a final decision on routine matters, especially civil cases ought to be considered by a mechanism that will not detract from the court’s primary role
  4. Some countries have brought in a clear division at the level of the apex judiciary by having separate constitutional courts, which limit themselves to deciding questions of constitutional importance
  5. 229th Report of the Law Commission suggested a new system under which there will be one Constitution Bench in Delhi, and four ‘Cassation Benches’ for different regions of the country. This may also increase access to justice to those living in far-flung areas of the country

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

Judicial Pendency

Mediation and Out-of-Court settlement


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Out of court settlement mechanisms in India

  • The attempt at mediation and an amicable out-of-court settlement of a famous temple dispute has failed.

Legal basis of Mediation

  • Negotiation or mediation is an accepted part of the procedure to resolve disputes.
  • Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure asks judges to ensure that all avenues to resolve a dispute outside the court have been exhausted.
  • The section reads: Where it appears to the Court that there exist elements of a settlement which may be acceptable to the parties, the Court shall formulate the terms of settlement.
  • The Court may reformulate the terms of a possible settlement and refer the same for- (a) Arbitration (b) conciliation (c) judicial settlement including settlement through Lok Adalat or (d) mediation.

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

Judicial Pendency

Zero Pendency Courts Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Zero Pendency Courts Project

Mains level : Judicial Pendency in India

  • A Delhi High Court’s pilot project report on the backlog of cases has said the Capital needed 43 more judges above the current strength of 143 to clear all the pending cases in one year.
  • The ‘Zero Pendency Courts Project’ is a one-of-its-kind project in India aimed to study the life cycle of cases to come up with optimal timelines for cases.

Zero Pendency Courts Project

  • Prompted by the urgent need to ensure timely justice, the Delhi High Court started the pilot project from January 2017 in certain subordinate courts in Delhi.
  • It is one of its kind in India aimed to study the life cycles of cases to come up with optimal timelines for cases.
  • The primary goal of the project was to study the flow of cases in the absence of backlog.
  • The inspiration for the “zero pendency court project” was a remark by Justice M.N. Venkatachalaiah (former Chief Justice of India).

Cost of Pendency

  • As recently as in 2016, it was estimated that judicial delays cost India around 1.5% of its Gross Domestic Product annually.
  • The report noted that the number of criminal cases in Delhi is far more than the number of civil cases.
  • As on March 20, 2019, there were 5.5 lakh criminal cases and 1.8 lakh civil cases pending in subordinate courts in Delhi.
  • It said the highest amount of time per hearing on average was spent on the final arguments stage followed by the final order or judgment.
  • A considerable amount of time is taken on dictation, researching on case laws etc. before pronouncing the final judgment. Thus, a lot of time is spent on each of the hearings.

Reason for delays

  • The reason for delays, the report said was the absence of witnesses.
  • Evidence stage forms an important of a case. Absence of witnesses during the evidence stage causes a serious impediment to the progress of the case.
  • Also, unnecessary adjournments sought by the advocates or the parties at various stages in a case delay the proceedings, thus prolonging the case life.
  • Additionally, there is a delay in the service of summons, especially to outstation parties.

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

Overcoming the backlog of cases: Judicial reform

A British citizen, Will Pike was paralysed during the 2008 Taj Hotel blasts in 2008. Suing the hotel group for compensation, he wanted the trial to take place in London rather than in India. Accepting his contention, the London court allowed the matter, specifically stating that the trial in India could take some ‘twenty years’. This is a befitting example of the pendency in Indian judicial system and how it needs to be urgently addressed.


The graphic below states the number of cases pending before the Courts in India. Currently, about 3.25 crore cases are pending in the Indian courts and Judges fear that this number might escalate to about 4 crore cases by the end of 2016. This problem gets escalated due to the crunch of Judges at all levels of Judiciary as seen in the graphic below.


Timely justice is an integral part of access of justice and this huge backlog of cases amounts to denial and derailment of justice. This article will look into the proposed reforms for addressing this systemic problem.


The 245th Law Commission Report on “Arrears and Backlogs: Creating Additional Judicial (W)omanpower has recommended the following measures

1. Calculating Adequate Judge Strength through a more scientific analysis of data – In this context, the Commission has negated a simplistic method like Judge-Population ratio (Number of judges required per million people) in favour of a Rate of Disposal Method.

In the Rate of Disposal Method, one looks at the current rate at which judges dispose of cases. Then, given that the institutions and disposal rate remain the same, the Courts would need how many more additional judges to keep pace with the new filings in Court so that the newly instituted cases do not add to the existing backlog.

2. Judges to be appointed on a Priority basis: India currently has 1/5th of the number of judges it needs and thus, the Judges need to be appointed on a priority basis.

3. Increasing the age of retirement for Subordinate Court Judges to 62 years.

4. Creation of Special Courts for traffic/police challan cases: They constitute about 37.4% of the existing pendency before the subordinate courts.

5. Provision for staff and infrastructure

6. Periodic Needs Assessment by High Courts: Monitoring the rate of institution and disposal of cases and revising the adequate strength of Judges since a High Court is equipped with all the information relating to the subordinate courts in the State. The Malimath Committee had recommended setting up of Vigilance Cells in each district by the High Court to monitor the performance of subordinate judicial officers.

7. Uniform data collection and data management methods : to bring in greater transparency.

8. Need for a system-wide reform: The Commission has recommended the following:
● Greater encouragement to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Lok Adalats <Can you tell us the difference among various types of ADRs, mediation, arbitration and conciliation? Answer in comments>
● Setting up non-mandatory time frames and performance benchmarks for resolution of different types of cases based on rational criteria.


9. Use of Technology : Has been recommended by the 230th Law Commission Report and the Malimath Committee Report to
(a) Club cases filed on similar points of law, which can be decided on the basis of a single judgment.
(b) Track old cases, which have become infructuous and dispose them off quickly
(c) Setting up E-Courts and ushering in E-filing. Has received a major boost under the e-Courts Integrated Mission Mode Project.

10. Creation of All-India Judicial Service: Provided for under Article 312 of the Indian Constitution. The idea has been mooted by various bodies including the First Judicial Pay Commission and accepted by the Supreme Court. Art 2012 proposal regarding creation of this service has not received responses from all States and this proposal continues to be hanging in the air <can you tell us the procedure of creation of new all India service? Answer in comments>.


Many steps are currently being taken by the Government and the Courts to address this problem.

  • Monthly National Lok Adalats are carried out for expeditious disposal of claims.
  • In March 2016, the Monthly Lok Adalat disposed of about 1.5 lakh cases and settled claims worth Rs. 100 crores <Where can one appeal against the decision of Lok Adalats. Also tell us about the jurisdiction of Lok Adalats. Answer in comments>
  • In criminal cases, the setting-up of fast-track Courts and “plea bargaining” have further expedited matters <Can you tell us what’s plea bargaining? Answer in comments>
  • The e-courts project, aimed at providing better Court management and a database of all pending cases with easier filing of important documents is underway.
  • Moreover, the National Litigation Policy 2015 is awaiting ministerial approval and seeks to reverse the trend of Government being the biggest litigant <did you know one of the argument for rejecting NJAC was that govt was the biggest litigant, therefore can have no role in appointment of judges>.

However, in view of the burgeoning backlog and urgency of reducing backlog, the efforts need to be severely expedited.

P.S. This article is published with inputs from a CD user  Joyousjojo (name changed on request).

P.P.S. If you want to write explainers for CD, mail us your explainer at hello@civilsadily.com

By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

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